Control versus Flow – Three Tips to “Go with the Flow”

My recent four-day visit to Venice, Italy, surprised me. Instead of relaxing in its beauty, I felt stressed to the max. When my cousin and I explored the narrow “streets,” alleys, and piazzas of this huge concrete medieval maze, we would get lost. To minimize being lost, we walked the few streets that had become familiar near our hotel.


On our first day, a half hour walk to a specific destination took us over two hours even though we had two different maps. Street and river names are written on the corner of buildings but many buildings have no names. I soon realized that Venice was going to demand my full attention and teach me some valuable lessons

On the last day of our four day visit, we set off with a detailed map of the city and some general directions from the person at the front desk of our hotel. (We hoped to find a specific water bus that would take us to an outer island.) He told us that it was a 15 minute walk but it would take us an hour because we would get lost. We decided to rely on the map to guide our every step. However, when we asked a few local people to point to our location on the map, they could not find it.

Once we realized that the map approach would not work, we began asking people along the way to point us in the direction of the water bus stop. A man standing at his second story window saw our hesitation at one intersection and without a word pointed to a specific alley. Five minutes later we found the bus stop. It only took us 30 minutes.

We went from trying to be in control to “going with the flow.” The flow meant that we asked for help from others and used our intuition to find our way. Instead of sticking to our plan or giving up, we discovered what worked and finally found the groove for walking the “streets” of Venice.

Lao Tzu, author of The Tao Te Ching, states “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”

Do you find yourself in situations where your plans or actions are not working? My Venice experience taught me a few things about moving from taking control to finding the flow:

Become Aware: When you are feeling frustrated, angry or fearful because your plan isn’t working, recognize that something needs to change. As you open your mind to possibilities, alternative options will present themselves or your own insights will generate them.

Accept Change: Your judgments, “shoulds” or expectations may pull you out of the natural flow of what works in any situation. These mental rules become roadblocks and limit your ability to read the external signs, hear your inner voice and work with what is.

Take Action: Let go of what is not working and discover what works. By trusting the process and taking the right action, you will accomplish your desired outcome with ease.

When your actions are ineffective, you have the option to dig in your heels, retreat or change. At those stressful times, I encourage you to become aware of your options, be willing to change, and act with awareness and trust. I wish I could have gotten my Venice insight sooner but I think I will be more awake on my next adventure.

As you take your hands off of the steering wheel of control, you allow yourself to “go with the flow.” You may even learn some valuable life lessons that will turn you into a very wise person.

Do you remember a time when you went with the flow and it worked out well? Click the words “Leave a Comment” at the top of the page under the title.

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